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Doctrinal differences abound in Christianity. This is attested to by the numerous times the Church has suffered splits and given birth to different denominations, branches, and sub-branches. The question Can somebody summarize the different “branches” of Christianity to me, and explain why they exist in the first place? gets this point across tremendously well.

But this inevitably leads us to ask the question: Why did God allow something like this to happen in the first place? If we look at the root causes of the many divisions in the history of the Church, one main reason that immediately stands out is the many different ways in which the Scriptures have been interpreted throughout history. And this is nothing to be surprised about when you have Scriptures that are inherently ambiguous, lending themselves to different, and sometimes mutually exclusive, interpretations.

And just to make matters even more complicated, even before we get to interpret anything, the question about what is considered part of the canon of Scripture and what isn't is also controversial in and of itself (for evidence of this, simply take a look at the many questions that have already been asked on the topic of the canon of scripture).

If God was behind the scenes inspiring and guiding the compilation of the Bible, then it follows that the existence of ambiguity in Scripture (what should be included in the canon, how Scripture should be interpreted, etc.) couldn't have been a coincidence. It had to be intentional. God, for some unknown reason, deliberately and intentionally allowed ambiguity to exist in Scripture.

Why?


(*) Note: I don't intend this question to be opinion-based, so I would rather encourage answers that draw on reputable sources, e.g., the works of reputable Christian philosophers or theologians that have discussed this question before, etc. Alternatively, if a denomination has an official denominational answer to the question, it would be great to know about that too.


Related: Are there any denominations that give official advice on how to handle the uncertainty in their doctrines?

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    Free Will? I don't know that I can agree that the Bible is ambiguous (citation needed?). Certainly, we, as fallible humans, find ways to misinterpret it. The issue isn't so much that the Bible is unclear, but that we are sinful. Thus, the answer to your question comes down to "why does God allow Sin?". – Matthew Apr 29 at 14:26
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    @Matthew - are you really saying that the Bible is not ambiguous? Then how do you explain the myriads of differing opinions and interpretations? Just spend a few a minutes in hermeneutics.stackexchange.com to see what I'm talking about ... – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 29 at 14:28
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    @PeterTurner Perspecuity doesn't mean that all Scripture is unambiguous, it means that the things necessary for salvation are unambiguous. – Nacht Apr 30 at 7:03
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    @Codosaur I think it's because we are being sanctified. No one gets there on this side of the dirt. "If anyone says he is without sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him." – Mike Borden Apr 30 at 11:38
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    @BCLC - there is ambiguity in math textbooks, but eventually you will always arrive at the same conclusion that the theorem stated, provided that you do your math properly. There is no one questioning the validity of any well-known mathematical theorem. Nobody questions the validity of the Pythagorean theorem, the multiple proofs that the square root of two is an irrational number, etc. You don't see the same level of unshakable consensus in doctrinal matters. I discussed about this in an earlier question. – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 30 at 14:47
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Why God allows ambiguities and what He does to help us

  1. Most denominations hold that the Holy Spirit inspires not only the Biblical book authors but also

    • the Individual Bible reader, and/or
    • the Church Councils (producing canon, creeds, documents), and/or
    • the Church teaching authority (such as the Catholic magisterium, producing guidelines)

    so that ambiguities are reduced, or in rare cases eliminated.

  2. How we approach the Bible is critical. If we read the Bible merely as history, as "true myth", as literature, as science book, or as a collection of ancient documents of a faith community, we will receive no help beyond scholarly literature to resolve the ambiguities remaining in the text. But, the faithful read the Bible as MORE than history, literature, and ancient document:

    • We also read the Bible as the Word of God where we listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us in our heart through the passage we are reading.
    • We also ask God questions coming from our present need & specific circumstances, triggered by our identification with the Bible character, a scene, God's promise, Jesus's saying, a psalm, a prophecy, etc. in the passage.

    Thus, after availing ourselves of the best that commentaries can provide, in reading devotionally the ambiguity usually ceases to be relevant because we read more as a means for God to speak to us, convict us of our sins, comfort us, inspire us, etc. Good commentaries will be honest by giving us credible historical, or denominationally-informed options, but leaving some ambiguities intact instead of inserting themselves stealthily. While ambiguities remain, we survive by trusting God the person instead of worrying over our gap-filled idea of God.

  3. All denominations admit that their theologies are necessarily incomplete, because the Bible does not reveal everything about God. AT THE SAME TIME all denominations say that the Bible has enough truths that we need to know for our salvation, and that the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome doubts caused by ambiguities so we can trust God's promises. Seen from this perspective, ambiguities are not devastating.

  4. Yes, different interpretations lead to different conflicting doctrines. Let's not pretend they don't exist. Like the OP, naturally we ask God: WHY? After 2,000 year history maybe God wants to teach us one or more of these lessons:

    • God doesn't want to be reduced to a particular system of theology that one group can use to oppress another as we saw in the history of wars over denominations. In other words, God wants to teach us humility and charity toward believers of different stripes.
    • Most denominations teach that the Bible is God's means of partially revealing Himself (in addition to Jesus Christ and general revelation), as God intends to remain hidden to preserve people's free will so that only those who are willing to open their hearts's door can receive His illuminating presence, His saving grace, His wisdom, and His blessing. Therefore, God may have left the ambiguities for this purpose.
    • God wants to provide different ways to worship and approach him, working through his Holy Spirit simultaneously through several LEGITIMATE denominations and letting history to build up several traditions to manifest His glory within multiple communities of faith like different colors of a rainbow. For example, one tradition emphasizes sacraments. Another emphasizes icons and beautiful liturgies. Another emphasizes the Bible as the sole means to engage God personally. Another emphasizes loving action in the world.
    • Especially in non-Western countries, new theologies are emerging to take into account non-Western cultural contexts. Some mission theologians have seen Western-style theologies as not sufficiently developed to address questions that these new cultures bring to the faith. While this can be alarming to some, others look at this as opportunities to manifest God's saving glory in a new way, while being careful to maintain certain orthodoxy of the faith against false teachings such as prosperity gospel. Maybe these ambiguities are left for new cultures to plug into the Kingdom.

How a denomination helps resolve most ambiguities

Those who accept the role of Church Councils and/or Magisterium in one's reading of the Bible will use their recommended guidelines to give us better certainties about God by narrowing the ambiguities significantly. For examples, they believe that the Holy Spirit inspired those who produced the Westminster Confession or inspires those currently serving as the Catholic Magisterium.

Even those who reject the relevance of church council or magisterium to guide their reading of the Bible, such as many "non-denominational" evangelicals, they usually STILL use a few principles to resolve "ambiguity" such as adherence to the practice of Inductive Bible Study. They will appeal to several Bible verses as evidence that the inductive bible study method is sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. Using this method usually helps resolve most ambiguities.

Below are some common areas related to Bible interpretation that denominations address to reduce ambiguities. Different denominations provide their own answer although there are many overlaps:

  1. How the canon is formed: although most denominations consider the canon "closed" since the early church fathers era they differ on the criteria used to select the books
  2. The level of inerrancy: to word level, concept level, etc.
  3. What topics are inspired: some say matters of faith are more inspired than things that are in the domain of science, others say all are equally inspired and the Bible has a better track record on science than atheist scientists, etc.
  4. Whether the Holy Spirit inspires only certain readers: guaranteeing inspiration only for the elect, or for those to read through the eyes of faith, or for everyone (believers or not)
  5. The role of church dogmas and/or tradition in guiding interpretation: examples: rule of faith, Catholic guidance, sola scriptura, etc.
  6. Hermeneutical principles to interpret the Bible properly:
    • whether context is book by book, author by author, or using the whole canon to guide the interpretation of a verse
    • how NT interprets OT
    • whether allegorical reading is allowed
    • proper use of ancient customs, myths, literary forms, and languages
    • external principles used: covenant / dispensation scheme, salvation history, source / form / redaction criticism, documentary hypothesis, etc.
    • the role of text criticism and authorized translation
    • Barthian style hermeneutic (i.e. Bible is 100% human text but the reader is given individual inspiration directly by the Holy Spirit)

C.S. Lewis advice to cope with the reality of conflicting doctrines

In the Preface to his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis likens each denomination to a room (representing the community of believers for that denomination). Each room is connected to an empty hallway (representing the perspective of a believer who is choosing which denomination to trust, i.e. struggling with the ambiguities). All the rooms and the hallway are in a big house (representing God's Kingdom where all who answer the call of God to trust Him live). In the context of this question, each believer in the hallway can grow in faith by joining a denomination (or a local non-denominational church / faith community) which helps the believer resolve some ambiguities collectively while having charity for those who resolve the ambiguities differently in another room.

Here is the quote:

I hope no reader will suppose that 'mere' Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions — as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall, I have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into the room you will find that the long wait has done some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling. In plain language, the question should never be: "Do I like that kind of service?" but "Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?"

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. This is one of the rules common to the whole house.

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  • "some say matters of faith are more inspired than things that are in the domain of science". Yes, and conversely, others say the Bible has a better track record on science than atheist scientists. – Matthew Apr 29 at 21:57
  • @Matthew Thanks. I added it. I also add a whole new section to address the WHY. – GratefulDisciple Apr 30 at 16:27
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator I noticed your question edit yesterday and after thinking about it I added a significant portion to my answer for addressing your WHY question. I try to be mindful of multiple legitimate denominations so my answer will be applicable to all of them. Let me know if there are remaining areas to address. – GratefulDisciple Apr 30 at 16:33
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In Matthew 13, Jesus reveals that it is God's will that some people understand and others be confused:

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Jesus is here repeating sentiments found in Psalms 115 & 135 and in Isaiah 6.

Furthermore, Proverbs 2 tells us that wisdom only comes to people who make a long study of Scripture.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— 3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

You have to prove you believe, that God's word matters to you and is precious before such wisdom is entrusted to you. Also, as Jesus said, the Kingdom of Heaven is one that grows like a mustard seed (Matthew 13 & 17). It does not start out full size. You begin with small understanding and if you cultivate it patiently, you end up with great understanding.

Thus the Church is filled with people at every level of understanding, and some charlatans with no understanding.

In the last three years, through an increased thirst for the reading of scripture, I have learned more than in the previous two decades combined. What that tells me is that even after thirty years of being a Christian, I have much to learn. If it is true for individuals like me, it is also true for denominations and other groupings of Christians. In my study of Ecclesiastes 3, I have found two interesting things. First, the 28 times (a time to be born , a time to die, etc) describe the phases we go through as we grow from infancy to adulthood, with the final time being peace. Second, these times also describe the history of Israel and the Church as God's people corporately grow from infancy to maturity. We are still not all the way there, but we will get there.

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  • I wish I could upvote several times! This is gold! Especially damaging, I think, are people who are so caught up in their own politics (church leadership included), that they give the Scriptures that they claim to follow, a bad reputation. Their observers still believe the claim, and therefore conclude that following The Bible must make you that bad. Why pursue something that has that result? Sadly, most of them never come back to review that flawed logic. (their examples did NOT in fact follow The Bible like they claimed) – AaronD Apr 30 at 0:04
  • +1 One can sell out to a "theology" and walk off of the path. – Mike Borden Apr 30 at 0:29
  • I agree, but Matthew13:11 were pointing to the Apostles not to individual Christian and it is directly connected to John16:12-14. Only the Apostles united to Peter were promised the guidance of the Spirit of Truth. That's why Luke10:16 and Matthew18:18 and ultimately Matthew16:19. Christian can understand the bible & interpret it, but they have no power to bind it, because they have the gifts of the Holy Spirit but not the Spirit of Truth which personify by the "another Advocate". Who is the "another Advocate"? St.Alphonsus Liguori knew the answer. – jong ricafort Apr 30 at 9:42
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    @jongricafort Often repeated "He who has ears, let him hear" - Matthew 13:9 and spoken in private to the disciples in verse 43. John 8:31-32 spoken to the Jews who had believed in him (not just the apostles united to Peter) "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." The ability to hear the Spirit of Truth is "ears that hear" which is a result of the new birth. There are not multiple helpers, advocates, Holy Spirits, and Spirits of Truth. God is One. – Mike Borden Apr 30 at 11:52
  • Also consider: "“Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.”" — (Isaiah 28:9–10) And: "… they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." — (Acts 17:11) "Blindly obey" is more OT. – Ray Butterworth Apr 30 at 20:35
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One part might be that God wants to reveal hearts. A determined critic can always find a creative way to misunderstand. In politics for instance, it's surprising how creative people can be at misrepresenting, spinning, and "misunderstanding" something. God could have spent an inordinate amount of space in His Word trying to "correct" all the millions of potential "misunderstandings"; but that would make the Bible sound extremely defensive and very jumbled, and very little of what God really wanted to communicate would come across.

And so I believe God wrote the Bible with some anti-tampering built in, and spending some time addressing critics and questions, but with most of the space dedicated to delivering the healthy spiritual "milk" and "meat" that we really need. Also, many passages in the Bible are deeply spiritual; those who haven't been born again cannot understand them (I Corinthians 2:13ff), but only through the Holy Spirit's help. In any case, the attitude in which we approach the Bible reveals a lot about our hearts. Thus the Bible also becomes "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

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  • Wow! Thanks for expressing exactly what I was trying (without nearly so much success) to convey. – Matthew Apr 30 at 1:35
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The Best Answer was chosen before I read this question (within 24 hours of it being posted) and, having read all the answers, I wish to point out that the scriptures of the Bible tell us exactly why many parts seem ambiguous (and thus why no end of different interpretations are made.) There is no need to go seeking Christian philosophers, theologians, or denominational views.

It is a unique collection of writings inspired by the Holy Spirit, with a precise use of words that is staggering. It is also a mystery book because it contains both mysteries and secrets that are only revealed by the Holy Spirit to those sincerely searching its pages to learn the mind of Christ, for the entire collection points to Christ. The Bible itself warns readers that their view of God is what determines their understanding, or their misunderstanding of God and his word:

"To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them." - 2 Samuel 22:26-28 NLT "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from his sight." - Hebrews 4:12-13 NLT

Further, the Christian apostle, Peter, wrote of Paul,

"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (Peter 3:15-16)

We are tested by God every time we read his word, as to whether we are pure in motive and humble in spirit, seeking his truth or if we are out to be critical of God and his holy word. The latter are on the highway to hell but if they humbled themselves under God's mighty hand, they could be spared. This means that those who read the Bible thinking it is ambiguous and, therefore, because they don't get the clear meaning they think it ought to convey they are free to criticize it as not inspired of God, are being judged by God even as they think such thoughts. They need not expect further enlightenment or even meaningful clarity of thought.

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  • @ Spirit Realm Investigator if you could contain your enthusiasm for choosing Best Answer so quickly - waiting a couple of more days, perhaps - you may get more answers. But rarely will an answer be posted after Best Answer has been appointed. On this site it is usually beneficial to give a question at least 2 days, preferably a week or more, to garner a selection of answers! – Anne Apr 30 at 13:41
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    Point taken. I temporarily removed the check mark from the accepted answer. Let's see how things unfold for a couple of days. – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 30 at 14:41
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If we can agree that such confusions and contentions are undesirable, as Ephesians chapter 4 strongly suggests, then the question of why God would allow it simply reduces to the old question of The Problem of Evil.

The most common answer given by various Christian denominations is that God considers free will paramount; that without the ability to make wrong choices, doing the right thing is meaningless, and that therefore God removing the possibility of error would be causing an even greater evil than he has eliminated.

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  • I'm not sure if I'm following your argument. 1) How can having doctrinal confusions be better than having no doctrinal confusions? How does the Church benefit from having doctrinal confusions? 2) Are you saying that the reason why some denominations that have the wrong doctrines is because they are evil? – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 29 at 18:45
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    I'm saying that having doctrinal confusions is better than having no free will. Subtle but important difference there. – Mason Wheeler Apr 29 at 18:50
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    What about having free will and no doctrinal confusions? Are you suggesting that it's impossible to have free will and no confusions in a topic? What about math? Are there any confusions regarding the correctness of the proofs of mathematical theorems? – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 29 at 18:52
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    I believe it's impossible to have free will and be guaranteed of no confusions in a topic. You don't need math to prove this; just a bit of basic logic: if people are free to make mistakes and wrong choices, and people are capable of interpreting doctrine, then they're free to either mistakenly or maliciously misinterpret doctrine, and then to pass on those incorrect interpretations to others. – Mason Wheeler Apr 29 at 18:55
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    If something is ambiguous then interpretation isn't about free-will. Someone could want to do the most good but take the incorrect interpretation. The bible is there as guidance as to what the right way to live and worship is - I don't see how this being clear removes free-will. – Lio Elbammalf Apr 29 at 22:59
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The best answer to this is that where there are ambiguities--true ambiguities--the answer to the burning question is not necessary for us to know. The doctrinal disagreements are generally based on doctrines which are clear in Scripture, but which are interpreted in false ways by many.

The Bible says nothing of anything being God-breathed (inspired) except the Scripture itself. Inspired readers, Church authorities, etc. are baseless, at least in the Bible.

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  • The doctrinal disagreements are generally based on doctrines which are clear in Scripture, but which are interpreted in false ways by many - do you know any denomination that gets most of its interpretations right? – Spirit Realm Investigator Apr 30 at 17:30
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Because the Church is the Body of Christ, and the body has many parts for different purposes.

Quoting from the book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12:

The body is a unit, though it is composed of many parts. And although its parts are many, they all form one body. So it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink.

...

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The different denominations of the Church are like different parts of the body, working to support the mission of God and his Kingdom in different ways, just like the different parts of the body assist you in different ways when you perform tasks in day-to-day life.

So, the logical conclusion for why God had the Bible written in such a way so that its interpretations could give rise to differences in opinion about its meaning, it's so that those differences in interpretation can give rise to different groups that serve His will in different ways.

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Are there theological explanations for why God allowed the existence of ambiguity in Scripture?

The answer is Yes. And that was the purpose why Jesus founded His Church on the rock. And the Church will be the guardian and pillars of Truth.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”(Matthew16:18-19

if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.(1Timothy3:15)

We can see clearly that Jesus had chosen the twelve Apostles to teach them and gave them authority and promised them the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, take note, Jesus promised them not the "gifts of the Holy Spirit" but the "Spirit of Truth" who also personifies the "another Advocate". And Jesus called His Apostles "friends".

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. (John1:15)

All Christians and Catholic faithful can read and understand the bible and even interprets it according to the gifts of the Holy Spirit or according to their inspiration and faith-lived experiences. But, Christian and Catholic individuals cannot claimed that their personal interpretation is the Truth, that's the key difference from the Apostles.

The Apostles were given the power to bind their teachings and interpretation, while individual followers or disciples has no teaching authority.

"Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." ... Matthew 18:18

But, Peter was especial because of the this two passages Matthew16:19 and an assurance that his faith will not fail in Luke22:32.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[a] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[b] loosed in heaven.”

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Actually, Peter's faith failed by denying Christ three times, and also the remaining Apostles who made their oath along with Peter that they will not deny Jesus the Son of Man during the Last Supper ceremony. Judas was already gone when they made the oath to Jesus Christ in the gospel of Matthew chpater26.

Peter was able to rise-up as he was led to seek the help of the Theotokos the Advocate or Advocata in the First century Christian Tradition. Peter was consoled by the Blessed Virgin Mary, and after that Peter consoled all the Apostles who somehow also deny Jesus by hiding in the hour of His passion and death, Luke22:32 was fulfilled as Peter was able to console and strengthen the Apostles, his brethren.

In closing, is there an ambiguity in scriptures? Yes. Did God purposely allow the ambiguity? Yes, because God wanted to establish His Church and Authority, so that all ambiguity can be settled by Church Authority as the Final Authority because they were chosen by God, they were taught by Jesus, they were ordained by Jesus and promised the guidance of the Spirit of Truth and the another Advocate that were not promise to any individual Christian and even to Pastors.

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